Friday, January 15, 2016

Thought of the Day #4 - D&D Initiative Deck

Or rather, shuffle and draw instead.

Thomas asked me about Initiative Tracking apps and in our discussion this morning I had this thought... A quick Google Search shows this might be a distillation or alternative to an existing alternative Initiative systems, but I'll flesh it out here quickly anyway.

Part of the tediousness of rolling initiative is having all the players roll, do the (basic) math of adding DEX and other bonuses and then getting everyone organized to tell their initiative to whoever is tracking it. One thing Thomas wants to try (and I do too, now) is maybe having initiative change each round (or could of rounds) to keep players on their toes and great a more dynamic combat. The roll method makes this difficult and existing initiative apps might have their own drawbacks, so why not...

  • Take 20 blank playing cards for each player and number them from 1+ the PC's initiative modifier to 20+ the PC's initiative modifier with the PC name on them as well.
    • So the Cleric with +0 to DEX would have cards from 1-20, the Rogue with +4 to DEX would have cards from 5-24 and so forth.
    • I had initially proposed 10 cards per deck, which you could still do, but Thomas correctly points out that would inflate the impact of DEX bonuses.
  • Instead of "rolling" players would shuffle and draw their card for initiative.
    • These could be quickly sorted and displayed.
    • The cheap alligator clip photo display stands would work well for this, or just binder clips.
    • This method also lets Barbarians draw two cards when they have advantage on initiative checks.
  • The speed of shuffling, drawing and sorting could possibly allow you to redo initiative each round of the combat.
  • The DM could have their own set of initiative cards for monsters, or could just roll a d20 as normal. I find that getting monster/adversary initiative in the order doesn't take as long.
    • If the DM uses cards, they could pre-roll or draw initiative before the session, to prevent them from having to sort through their decks of cards.
    • I'd use blank playing cards for sturdiness/ease of shuffle, but you could also do flash cards or half-size index cards to get different colors.
The biggest downside I see, is that I just got a swanky Dice Tower with magnetic initiative tracker for XMAS... But... I could have the players use them, keep their cards where they could see and then I could use just the magnetic tracker on my side of the screen for my tracking, then I would cut out the time I spend keeping the set of initiative the players see on their side of the screen...


  1. Another benefit here might be that players can just put their numbered cards in order for you, rather than any sort of calling out and recording.

    I still dream that a good app might be made for this. Also, more apps need the free/pay version of pay to upgrade nonsense, because I can't tell if any of these apps will really do what I want them to.

  2. I am BEYOND intrigued by this, but would need to see it in action, to try it out before I could commit to it fully. Great stuff guys.



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